Primary Music Theory
Elementary School improvisations on five string bass guitar
Fingers' symbols
Left hand                                           Right hand

We will mark left hand fingers with numbers from 1 to 4;
1 - an index finger,
2 - a middle finger,
3 - a ring finger,
4 - a little finger.
Right hand fingers are marked with Latin letters, abbreviations of the Spanish names of fingers:
P - pulgar (a thumb),
I - indice (an index),
M - medio (a middle finger),
A - anular (the fourth finger).
  The bass guitar is one of the youngest instruments, without which contemporary music can not be imagined. First models appeared in the late 1940s, and from 1953 a bass became a commercial product. These were American "Fender" basses of till now popular model "Fender Precision". So as the bass start functioning as a double bass, it immediately became widely popular, thanks to its compactness (in the first place) and considerably increased sound volume, owing to the application of sound-amplifying equipment.  As well as a double bass, first bass' models had four strings, tuned similar to a double bass. The first string (the thinnest one) is a note G of the great octave, the second string is the note D of the great octave, the third string - a note A of a contra octave, the fourth string (the thickest) is the note E, based in the contra octave.
The bass is the foundation of a harmony. When we want to know the name of a chord, we have to find, firstly, the lowest note in this shape, this names the chord. All other notes, which a chord includes, only specify its mode functions, in one or another chord sequence.
So, chords are named "by the bass". The double bass as a lowest-pitched instrument in the orchestra is called to create a harmonic foundation for different music structures. The expansion of musical views, which took place in the twenties century on the basis of the scientific and technological advance, and a considerably increased role of music in the life of modern society allow to put practically every instrument in an orchestra or a band in the forefront. The bass guitar is not an exception; it is used in different music styles as an accompanying and as soloing instrument. Five- and six-string bass guitar models were developed and put on sale to extend the range of an instrument. The low B string of the sub-contra octave is usually used in five strings. The low B string of the sub-contra octave and the high C string of a small octave are usually used in six-strings, extending the range of an instrument to four octaves. So as the bass is tuned in fourth, all fingerings are universal in any part of the neck, from any string. This circumstance facilitates the process of mastering any number of strings on the bass.
On the one hand, a bass is generally a four-string instrument in our perception, and there is no difference between basses with various numbers of strings except the range. On the other hand, I want to learn to play the bass, but I have only five- or six-string model!? On the basis of these reasons and the more integral perception of every range separately (it gives a possibility for the most efficient usage of five- and six-string basses advantages), fingerings for basic musical figures, viewed in the theoretical part (scales, triads, seventh chords, pentatonics), are given for the 4-, 5- and 6-string bass in this textbook. 
The role of the bass in the band is mostly rhythmic and harmonic. It links drums rhythm to the music harmony. The concept of music style is first of all the rhythmical concept, that is why exactly the bass with percussive instruments creates a sense of one or another music style (samba, rumba, swing, bossa nova, ballad, etc). A contemporary bass player often has to devise his part by himself on the basis of the guitar "harmony" and one or another style. A guitar "harmony" means here a chord sequence for a song or another musical composition, for example: Gm7  | C9   | Fmaj7 |Bbmaj7 | Gm7  | A7  |Dm  | Dm  :||. This is rather easy, you only should learn basic music structures (scales, triads, seventh chords and a pentatonic) in major and minor variants, and also listen a lot of different music, to have an idea of styles.
From the objective viewpoint an art of improvisation on any music instrument can be divided into three constituent parts: 1. Sense of rhyme, 2. Sense of the tonality,
3. Sense of the form.
A sense of rhyme arises from the realization of the "rhythmic temperament". It should be formed a clear sensation of multilevel duplet-triplet division of tempo-rhythm. This gives a possibility to play fast and slow patterns in the same tempo.
Sense of the tonality arises from learning musical figures (scales, triads, seventh chords, pentatonics) viewed in this textbook.
A practice of scales, arpeggios and so on gives a possibility to hear their sound, a melody which is the result of the performing. The importance of such exercises can scarcely be overestimated. It is a solfeggio on the guitar. From the start a connection of those exercises with music is unobvious, but it proves to be the shortest way to understand the highest level of music art at the end. The improvisation eventually is a matter of an ear. Consequently an ear should be developed first of all.
A sense of a form arises from the recognition of the basic logical music structure called a chorus. The simplest chorus is one measure. The duration of a chorus can be different, and depends on kind of music. Commonly there are differed such choruses: one measure, two measures, hypermeasure (4 measures), two hypermeasures (8 measures), hypermeasure verse (16 measures)etc.
Suggested methods aimed to form and develop the above mentioned qualities. Firstly learn thoroughly the fingering of a scale for example, and then try to play it as in the notation under a tabulature. It is important to tap your foot in time while playing exercises. First of all this allows to hear and play the melody more correctly and then provides better and faster understanding of the rhythmic temperament. The performance of given exercises in time is the "foundation stone" of this methods.

A position covers four frets in number of "playing" left hand fingers. The fifth finger (the thumb) is the bearing one, it almost always is on the opposite side of a fretboard. Everything what can be played on the bass can be arranged in positions. It is extremely important to notice "positions" while learning standard figures (scales, arpeggiosetc). The correct shift of fingers from one position to the other promotes the smooth, quick performance of passages. The positional thinking is more efficient and enables to memorize much more information.
  Two superpositions
Notes on the bass are arranged as in the Major scale formula in the key of C; (C-W-D-W-E-H-F-W-G-W-A-W-B-H), beginning from the open string note. The location of two superpositions is better visible on five- and six-strings necks, but they are present on the four-strings too. The notion of superpositions appreciably helps to orient oneself on the neck of an instrument.
The Chromatic scale fingering is given here to emphasize the difference between these two notions. A Chromatic scale is all twelve half steps in the range of one octave, a positions is notes, which involve four left hand fingers on the bass neck.
Exercises in this textbook are not just patterns for the technique development, these are also basic musical structures, which are the foundation of the bassist's musical thinking. Exists an opinion that, there are a lot of different chords, that is really so, but these are of the same structure. This is especially evident on the string instruments tuned in fourth. The theme of chords construction and the reason for the selection of exactly these scales and chords (two scales, three triads, four seventh chords and two pentatonics) for practice was already discussed in the theoretical part of this textbook.
In the given pictures there are scale degrees in motley circles on the left and a fingering on the right. There are notes below and under notes there is a tabulature (tab). If everything is clear to you in the picture you don't have to read a tabulature so as pictures and tabs are explaining the same (how to play patterns from the staff notation on the guitar).
If we will play the first I, the third III, the fifth V and the eighth VIII scale degrees in succession, we will get one octave arpeggio of the main triad of this scale.
Having added the seventh VII scale degree to the triad, we get one octave arpeggio of the seventh chord. Here are given four different fingerings of seventh chords which the key is consists of.
The pentatonic scale is also built on the basis of a scale. IV and VII degrees of the Major scale are missed in the major pentatonic scale, II and VI degrees of the Minor scale are missed in the minor pentatonic scale. Triads and seventh chords can be built on the basis of any scale, except the Chromatic one, but the pentatonic scale is built only on base of Major and Minor scales.
An alphanumeric (tabular) notation appeared mainly thanks to the guitar. The fingering of the same type chords on the guitar is more obvious than on any other instrument.
In various music issues the notation a bit differs from each other.There are two main ways of a tabular presentation: 1) alphanumeric, 2) via letters and symbols. Mainly these are used separately, but sometimes can be mixed. Being aware of these ways of notation you can always understand the intention of the author.

    © 2010-2012 GennadiyKlyuevskiy

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  Chromatic scale G one octave
   Diatonic seventh chords
Pentatonic scale
  One octave Major scale G
   One octave Minor scale Gm
   One octave Major triad arpeggio G
   One octave Minor triad arpeggio Gm
   One octave Major seventh chord arpeggio Gmaj7
  One octave Minor seventh chord arpeggio Gm7
   One octave Major Minor seventh chord (dominant seventh chord) arpeggio G7
  One octave Half-diminished seventh chord arpeggio Gm7b5
   One octave Major pentatonic scale G
   One octave Minor pentatonic scale Gm
Tabular chord notation